Patriots beat writers knew Branch wouldn’t way before the news became official. Two of them saw Branch ordering food at a Panda Express at the Mall of America before the game, according to their tweets.
Branch, who played at the University of Michigan after Cibola, missed his sixth straight game because of knee trouble.
Alan Branch is currently in line for Panda Express at the Mall of America. Gonna guess that means he’s not playing tonight.
— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) February 4, 2018
Other players not suited up for the defending champions are running back Mike Gillislee, offensive lineman Cole Croston, tight end Jacob Hollister, wide receivers Kenny Britt and Bernard Reedy and linebacker David Harris. Gillislee was the second-leading rusher for the Patriots during the regular season with 383 yards.
Just ran into Alan Branch in the Mall of America. He’s disappointed he’s not playing today. So that’s one of seven inactives
— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) February 4, 2018
For the Eagles, running back Wendell Smallwood, wide receiver Marcus Johnson, offensive lineman Will Beatty, defensive end Steven Means, defensive tackles Destiny Vaeao and Elijah Qualls and cornerback Sidney Jones were on the inactive list for Sunday.
There were no surprises on the scratch lists for either team. The Patriots cleared tight end Rob Gronkowski from the concussion protocol earlier this week.